Category Archive: News

What's going on at the Kerbal Space Agency

Nov 20 2020

Operations Summary – Weeks of 11/9 & 11/16/20

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Nov 19 2020

Progeny Mk7-B Flight 4 Analysis

With all three previous missions failing for different reasons, the fourth and final planned mission for the Mk7-B received new objectives in the hope that this mission would be successful at last. The first change was to swap out the new booster for one that had been refurbished from a previous flight, which necessitated a launch delay that pushed the date back from 10/20 to 10/29. This booster was from the second Mk7-B flight back in late August and would be the first time we attempt to re-fly an engine. On the opposite end of the rocket we swapped out the parachute nose cone for a payload fairing that encapsulated a new Luciole smallsat prototype. This would be deployed onto the sub-orbital trajectory to test its systems and reaction wheels. Recovery would be of only the first stage booster and RTG casing from the payload, which did not contain any radioactive material for this mission. Other than the delay for booster integration, no problems occurred in the lead-up to launch.

The Flight

After good retraction of the support arms at T-5s the Boostertron II solid rocket motor successfully ignited for an on-time launch at 13:45 local, pushing the rocket upwards off the pad with an initial force of 3.3Gs while the fins actuated to begin rolling the rocket from 90° towards 34°. Less than 2 seconds after launch it had spun enough to allow pitch-over to begin as well, with the flight computer guiding it along a gradual and constant change rate throughout the ascent. By L+10s the rocket had locked onto its heading and thrust from the SRB had already begun to taper off from its max 74kN to reduce loads on the rocket as it approached Mach 1.

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Nov 12 2020

Progeny Mk7-B Flight 3 Analysis

A pause after the first two launches was required to not only build the final two rockets but also to launch the second Ascension Mk2, which required a pad reconfiguration. The pad was setup again afterwards to support Mk7-B launches and the third rocket was trucked out to the pad to perform its mission, which we hoped would finally see the rocket on a high sub-orbital trajectory with a successful hot staging to avoid losing speed on ascent. While the launch date did not change, the rocket’s new 0.625m SRB was swapped out for a refurbished SRB to test under flight conditions for the first time after making it through two static fires.

The Flight

No delays occurred during pre-launch preparations and everything was looking good for an on-time lift off when a hold was called from the weather desk just 8 seconds prior to T-0. The mountain wave sensors were tripped and due to the high instability of the rocket without its support arms a hold had to be called before they were retracted at T-5s. No gusts were recorded at KSC in the following minutes however and after some more checking on the weather data it was called as a false alarm and the countdown was reset to T-2min with a new launch time of 18:00 local. The hold was released 29 minutes after it was called. T-0 arrived without further incident, all four support arms retracted properly and the Boostertron II first stage was successfully ignited to begin the ascent.

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Nov 06 2020

Operations Summary – Weeks of 10/26 & 11/2/20

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Oct 23 2020

Operations Summary – Weeks of 10/12 & 10/19/20

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Oct 21 2020

Ascension Mk2 Flight 2 Analysis

Although the first orbital mission was eventually deemed a success for the payload, the Ascension Mk2 failed in its attempt to place the satellite it carried into a stable orbit. This brought the Ascension team back to the drawing board to improve the Viklun upper stage and make it more capable of maintaining attitude with its Reaction Control System cold gas thrusters. In the months since the first mission additional design work was also carried out for the next payload, dubbed Kerbin II and meant to test out technologies that would be used in the first line of communication satellites we are hoping to deploy in 2021. Once the Viklun stage improvements and payload design were finalized the rocket was assembled without issue in the VAB but the day before launch a problem occurred with installing the Radioisotope Thermal-electric Generator. The RTG was installed late in the launch preparation because the heat it outputs would compromise the fairings if left too long without thermal control, such as that provided by the crew access tower when the rocket is on the pad. Thankfully the problem was easy to overcome and the mission was only delayed to the following week.

The Flight

With no issues popping up during pre-flight the Mk2’s K2-X main engine lit up on time at T-3s under command of the AFCS, throttled at 10% power to check for good ignition. At T-0 after chamber pressures were confirmed to be nominal the 4 solid rocket boosters were ignited and their hold down bolts blown away to allow the rocket to begin its ascent with a combined force of 191kN to produce just over 1.6Gs acceleration. Immediately after launch all four of the rocket’s fins actuated to roll the rocket from 45° to 60° heading over about 6s before beginning to pitch over downrange. At the time pitch-over began the two horizontal fins nullified their ability to react to roll inputs so later in the flight at supersonic speeds control flutter would be kept to a minimum to reduce vibrations on the payload. By L+10s the SRBs had begun to taper off their thrust and the main engine throttle started to increase in order to maintain a TWR of 1.5.

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Oct 09 2020

Operations Summary – Weeks of 9/28 & 10/5/20

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Sep 29 2020

Progeny Mk7-B Flight 2 Analysis

Hot on the heels of the first launch, the second mission was set to rectify several issues that ended up leading to a mission failure. Although the modifications needed for the rocket were made in time for an on-schedule launch the weather had other plans and forced a one day delay. Once the skies cleared up however all proceedings up to the terminal count were carried out with no additional issues.

The Flight

With the service boom swung away and the rocket on internal power and radio-frequency comms, final preparations for launch were carried out mainly by the AFCS, now in control of the rocket. 5s before booster ignition the support arms holding the rocket steady against any sudden wind gusts were retracted to clear the way for ascent and at T-0 the 0.625m dual-segment SRB lit off to push the rocket off the engine support at 13:30:00.04 local time to begin its ascent.

With an initial TWR of 3 the rocket quickly gained enough speed in the first seconds for the guidance fins to have the authority to begin pitching the rocket downrange, heading the direction it was already facing – direct east. However instead the rocket went into a slight roll and actually ended up briefly pointing back west before correcting with another roll back towards 90° however upon reaching that head spun around again and continued to have trouble pointing itself in the proper direction to the consternation of controllers.

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Sep 25 2020

Operations Summary – Weeks of 9/14 & 9/21/20

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Sep 13 2020

4 Years On – How IRL Will Impact KSA’s Future

Hello everyone, this is going to be an entirely out-of-character annual update because I want to be candid about how this project could be affected by in-real-life events moving forward given my current circumstances.

The KSA is becoming a “mature” agency now and that helps because it doesn’t tweet or generate content nearly as much on a daily basis as it used to back in the earlier years, however at the same time the complexity of the operations has also increased. The pandemic these past few months and me being unable to do my “real job” coaching gymnastics and thus spending nearly all my time at home has also brought about a startling realization: this whole project is taking up a lot more time nowadays than it used to. In earlier years I would have at least 2-3 weeks of lead time, sometimes as much as 2-3 months and now I’m struggling to keep ahead by just a few days.

There is another consideration however – the whole pandemic situation has also brought me closer to friends online since regular in-person gatherings aren’t really a thing anymore lately. Ironically this has eaten up time as well because it’s easier to get together online to play games than it is to coordinate IRL meetups. So before Covid I was spending less time hanging with friends but getting more from the in-person interaction so I felt less compelled to connect to them online often, freeing up more time for me to work on KSA.

Now, if I free up more time from gaming with my friends online that will help me stay ahead when lead time grows short but another upcoming problem will be when financial assistance for unemployment related to Covid dries up over the next few months. If I return to the gym to coach or search out some other employment opportunity because I need the money to sustain myself then that is once again less time I have to spend on this project.

If time becomes an issue, as I have said before I will be forced to scale back the timeline and scope of this project in order to allow it to continue. Updates will become fewer, background story elements will fade away, crew will develop less character and time between launches will be extended so that I have more time to prepare.

A final consideration for how much time I have to work on KSA activities is contributions from Patreon. Obviously if I can make enough money through here that I don’t have to spend as much time coaching or traveling away to fireworks shows then that is more time I can spend on this project instead. Currently I’m making just enough to cover the monthly $10 payment I make to prolific KSP mod author LinuxGuruGamer, who in keeping various mods alive also helps keep the KSA project moving forward with new KSP versions.

While I of course hope my personal situation and the pandemic situation stabilizes in the near future, I also doubt it’s going to happen – especially considering this upcoming U.S. election. I remain committed however to not voluntarily giving up the project. I take a lot of enjoyment seeing people react to what the KSA is doing and I thank everyone who has reached out to me over the years with comments and suggestions or even attempted to take part in the role play. It does mean a lot.

I’m really looking forward to making it back to orbit over this coming year and continuing on this journey with you all. Thanks for following along and please don’t forget to help spread the word about the KSA’s existence!

Drew Kerman,
Founder, Operations Director

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